The Leakey Foundation presents Nutrition in Wild Orangutans: Insights Into Human Health
Nutrition in Wild Orangutans: Insights Into Human Health will feature information about orangutan diet, behavior, and physiology that can shed light on the current obesity epidemic in modern day humans.
Orangutans are highly intelligent, critically endangered great apes that live in the tropical forests of Sumatra and Borneo. Along with chimpanzees, gorillas, and bonobos, orangutans are remarkably similar to humans in terms of anatomy, physiology, and behavior.
Nutrition is critical to the health of humans and other primates, but we are still discovering how primate nutritional strategies affect the health of wild primates. Orangutans are a useful model for understanding human evolution because orangutans share several adaptations with us, including the propensity to store fat and utilize fat reserves when food is scarce.
Erin Vogel is assistant professor of anthropology and human evolutionary studies at Rutgers University. Her research interests revolve around how and why organisms acquire and select the food resources they need for survival. She studies how ecological variation influences the behavior, social organization, and morphology of non-human primates and early human ancestors. Vogel’s current research focuses on behavioral, physiological, and morphological adaptations to periods of fruit scarcity in wild orangutans. She examines how the properties of foods consumed by wild orangutans vary with the availability of preferred fruit.